In a country that is so well endowed with natural features, amazing experiences and stunning landscapes, it is difficult to find one area that warrants true distinction.
But such a special place exists and it's one that is easily accessed from two of the North Island's primary visitor destinations, Rotorua and Taupo.
Whirinaki Te Pua-a-Tane Conservation Park in itself is a destination. Its 60,000 hectares - the size of nearby Lake Taupo to the west or the island of Singapore much further distant - host one of the most significant temperate rainforests left on this Planet.
Whirinaki was the site of New Zealand's first major conservation battle - an international bid to stop the logging of the old-growth species that had previously survived there for centuries - and has status globally as a site of significance, being one of the few native forests still in existence with canopy showing such completeness.
Maori are kaitiaki (guardians) of Whirinaki and there are many traditional nga mahinga kai, or food gathering places, and other culturally significant sites, within its boundaries.
The entire area of Whirinaki Te Pua-a-Tane Conservation Park is of cultural significance to those who affiliate with the local iwi, Ngati Whare and Ngati Manawa, whose founding ancestors came to the region in the early 1600s, originally from the southern Waikato via the East Coast.
A small number of commercial operators offer single day and multi day guided experiences within Whirinaki Te Pua-a-Tane Conservation Park, the longest established being the specialist walk company Whirinaki Rainforest Experiences.
This long serving company - it was founded in 1994 and is now in its 21st year of operations at Whirinaki - provides guides who offer rich interpretation of how this stunning temperate rainforest was crucial to, and used by by the descendents of those who originally undertook epic ocean voyages around the South Pacific and settled in Aotearoa New Zealand.
These professional guides share themselves with manuhiri - visitors to this vast wooded land who find their way to this very special place from the four corners of the world.
Whirinaki Te Pua-a-Tane Conservation Park provides a stunning location for such experiences and soul food for those who want time out from the hurly burly of the pressure-cooker life that is a reality for most in the 21st century.
Haere mai. Haere mai. Haere mai. Welcome once. Welcome twice. Welcome three times. This is the greeting visitors to Whirinaki will receive on arrival at a place where lifetime memories are made.
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